What movie was that...?

20 August 2012

RIP Tony Scott

I was floored to learn of this terribly sad news last night. Such tragedy deserves more eloquence that I am capable of, but I think my old review for Domino gets to the core of how I feel about Tony Scott's stellar talent. Anyone who can should go watch the BMW film Beat the Devil right now. Tony would be happy about that.

19 August 2012

Glengarry Glen Ross

directed by James Foley

David Mamet’s rapid fire treasure about one night inside Premier Properties, a macho and ruthless Chicago real estate office, moves like a hot shot of greased lightning, and the spectacular ensemble cast of acting titans find a way to chew every single frame of scenery Foley can serve up. Though I would argue that Foley’s contribution to the film is minimal (I cite his depressing resume as exhibit A and David Mamet’s Broadway predecessor as exhibit B), it really doesn’t matter much when you have such a killer script and a cast that would make any director swoon. Alan Arkin, Al Pacino, Ed Harris and Jack Lemmon all play hard boiled real estate agents (in an office managed by the snide and sneaky Kevin Spacey) who will stop at nothing to earn a Cadillac El Dorado (offered up by a scene stealing Alec Baldwin) and avoid the axe. Chances are any internet soundboard inspired by these actors you have ever heard contains soundbites of yelling, cursing, more yelling and cursing, and pissing contest style ruminations from this classic. For a film that takes place in roughly 3 set pieces (the Chinese restaurant, the Premier Properties office and the rainy street between the two), Glengarry keeps you riveted, enthralled and swept up in a whirlwind of testosterone infused one-upmanship, money obsessed desperation and success crazed egomania. You have to catch your breath just trying to keep up, and those you with a soft spot for the fresco of profanity of near Big Lebowskian proportions Mamet crafts will be in your glory as you listen to these guys drop F bombs like shell casings from an engaged minigun. Rightly so, Glengarry Glen Ross is on most top 100 Films lists, a position it’s likely to hold forever, unless someone else can score that El Dorado.

And for your viewing pleasure, Blake (Baldwin) offering up the parameters of the contest:

06 August 2012

The Red Chapel (Det Røde Kapel)

directed by Mads Brügger

Mads Brügger is a talent with a penchant for the borderline ludicrous, and the trailer for his newest documentary experiment about the acrimonious diamond trade in Africa (The Ambassador) finds him in the driver seat on yet another nearly preposterous adventure that threatens to fly off the tracks at any given moment. I cannot wait, but we can always journey back a few years for a bit of the hair of the dog to tide us over. I’m talking about Brügger’s compellingly odd and tantalizingly outrageous doc about a glimpse of life in the quarantined nation of North Korea. Unlike the various sterilized and academic contemporary examples (A State of Mind, I’m looking at you in particular), The Red Chapel is at once wacky and poignant in its effort to expose the collective wound beneath the surface of an entire country. The premise: a pair of Korean born, Danish comedians, accompanied by their “manager and show director” (Brügger), travel to North Korea under the guise of performing a variety act and participating in a kind of cultural exchange. The two comedians, Simon Jul and Jacob Nossell, were both adopted from South Korea as children, while Brügger alleges to be a Kim Jong Il sympathizer who advocates for the cause in Europe. Add to the fact the Nossell suffers from spastic paralysis (there have long been stories of North Korean intolerance toward any type of handicap) and the slip slip slippery slope of what Brügger calls “going with the flow” as the trio augments their show to cater to the North Korean palette, and you end up with a mesmerizing look at what happens when two very different worlds meet. The entire documentary is not all genuine, though, for Brügger’s primary aim with his ruse is to undermine the cult of Kim Jong Il and to expose the calamity of a culture built atop a mountain of fear, lies and antisocial behavior. It is intense at times, even surreal, but Brügger’s doc is immensely watchable and disarmingly provocative. The scene in which Mads and Jacob are thrust into a North Korean nationalist display in full bloom is jaw dropping, plain and simple. If you watched the trailer for The Ambassador and are wondering what to make of it, The Red Chapel should be square one.

The trailer for The Ambassador (in case you missed it):

05 August 2012

Bullhead (Rundskop)

directed by Michael R Roskam

Though I was happy with A Separation winning the 2012 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, I was pulling for Michael R Roskam’s tough and wonderful Bullhead, starring the tremendous Matthias Schoenaerts. Schoenaerts bulked up in Tom Hardian fashion for his role as Jacky (he built up nearly 60 pounds of shit kicking muscle!), a cattle farmer hooked on industrial grade growth hormones and brimming over with tear you apart rage. Jacky is also a man awash in the depths of traumatic scars and a mutilated sense of identity. Roskam makes the misstep of adding a criminal slash thriller plotline (illegal cattle hormones and meat trading, cop killing) that only serves to pad and muddy the true core burning at the center of this film, but Schoenaerts will make a believer out of you. The heart of this film resides in Jacky’s dark battle with his past, his demons, and himself, and we find in Jacky a penned and cornered thing, an animal for whom the world is a skulking, menacing predator. Whether he’s boxing his adrenaline away in a bathroom, or stomping the life out of someone, or simply glaring into a distance most of us will never have the eyes to perceive, Schoenaerts is a tectonic force that will get inside you. Nicolas Karakatsanis is a wonder as cinematographer, bringing us the gloom of this world in rich, sepic tones. Is this a perfect film? No, but with a core cutting performance from Schoenaerts and a credible Jeroen Perceval as his estranged friend, Bullhead casts a bruising spell over you in strange ways.